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Musharraf Allies Say Talks Could Lead to Resignation, Legal Immunity


Allies of Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf say there are ongoing talks with his political opponents about allowing Mr. Musharraf to resign without facing impeachment charges. But VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad that the president's spokesman continues to deny that Mr. Musharraf plans to step down.

Days before Pakistan's coalition government says it will reveal several impeachment charges against Mr. Musharraf, some of the president's allies say there are ongoing talks between the two sides that could allow Mr. Musharraf to quietly resign without facing impeachment or criminal charges.

A spokesman for the president, Rashid Qureshi, is denying that the president plans to step down or is seeking a deal for legal immunity.

But Senator Mushahid Hussein, a senior leader of the president's Pakistan Muslim League Q party, confirms in an interview with VOA that there are talks under way for some sort of compromise agreement. He says "the next few days will be decisive" in the standoff.

"I don't speak for the president but I can certainly say there are backchannels between the presidency and the government which are trying to reach an amicable settlement - so that the country can move on," said Hussein.

Political analysts say a drawn out impeachment struggle against the man who has ruled Pakistan for nearly nine years would dredge up old controversies and consume the government's attention when the country faces other serious economic and security problems.

But the coalition government, which spent months haggling over its policy toward the unpopular president, last week made unseating Mr. Musharraf its primary goal.

Since then, a series of lopsided no-confidence votes in the country's four provincial assemblies that included some defections from traditionally pro-Musharraf parties have eroded the president's political support.

With the two sides discussing terms under which Mr. Musharraf could resign, some Pakistani officials say U.S. diplomats have lobbied for a dignified exit for Mr. Musharraf. The U.S. embassy insisted the issue is an internal matter for the Pakistani people to decide.

Senator Mushahid Hussein called one possible option for Mr. Musharraf, the "Richard Nixon formula," in reference to the U.S. president who resigned before his likely impeachment in 1974.

"A variation of that could be seen in Pakistan where perhaps there would be a quiet resignation, there would not be any impeachment and Mr. Musharraf would fade quietly into the night to his newly built residence on the outskirts of Islamabad," he said. "And there would not be any kind of charges or prosecution afterward. People don't want to see it as any kind of a blood feud - that's not in the national interest."

So far, members of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's PML-N party have insisted that the president stand trial for alleged crimes he has committed while in office even if he resigns. The stance of the Pakistan People's Party on the issue has been unclear.


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